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Protest, originally scheduled to coincide with controversial ‘Killology’ course, still set for Tuesday

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 23, 2020

Protesters raise their hands during a “Hands up, don’t shoot” chant on July 26 during a protest against the previously planned Killology public forum for Spokane County law enforcement.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)
Protesters raise their hands during a “Hands up, don’t shoot” chant on July 26 during a protest against the previously planned Killology public forum for Spokane County law enforcement. (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)

Protesters are planning to demonstrate at a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office training session Tuesday that’s been under scrutiny for months.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday will host Dave “JD Buck Savage” Smith, who was originally supposed to present with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, founder of the controversial “killology” training. The Human Rights Activist Coterie of Spokane plans to protest outside the course.

Grossman and Smith were set to speak on Oct. 27 and 28 but after controversy surrounding Grossman’s “warrior mindset” style of training, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich postponed Grossman’s appearance.

Smith said he teaches the “mental components of being a cop,” while Grossman is more tactical.

“I’m the mental wellness guy and he’s the more tactical guy,” Smith said.

Instead of the killology training, Knezovich said he would host a public forum with Grossman during his planned trip to Spokane this month but Grossman canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“He canceled due to COVID restrictions and the inability to be able to have enough people in the classroom,” said Cpl. Mark Gregory. Rescheduling the event could be pursued in the future, Gregory said.

Activists in Spokane continued to speak out against the training with thousands of people signing petitions and one group, the Human Rights Activist Coterie of Spokane holding continued protests.

HRAC plans to protest Tuesday’s training calling it, “another warrior mindset training.”

“It’s the same mindset of believing that officers are always in danger from the public,” said Emily Peters HRAC spokesperson. “And believing that officers should always defend themselves against the public resulting in more deaths.”

Smith was a police lieutenant in Arizona before becoming a training instructor in 1990.

“We have a dangerous profession, we have a high suicide rate. My job is to give them belief in themselves and their mission,” Smith said. “My whole thing is mental attitude, human performance, how to deal with crisis.”

The law enforcement profession is often misunderstood by activists who don’t realize officers mainly work to bring healing and safety back to victims, Smith said.

“Part of all this defunding stuff is based on people who have no idea what law enforcement is or does,” he said. “When you’re taking a report on the burglary, part of your job is to give healing and wellness to that person.”

Smith pushed back against the idea that “warrior style” training is a bad thing and said he believes that just like many other “left-wing ideas there’s no definition.”

If the definition is militaristic training, Smith said that’s not what he does.

“I’ve taught hundreds of cadets and I’ve never taught a cadet to be a soldier,” he said.

Many things in society are talked about in war terminology, like the war on drugs, the war on poverty, or the war on COVID, Smith said. The people who fight those wars are often called warriors, people who never give up, Smith said.

“I want nurses and doctors that never give up, I want teachers that never give up on ignorance,” Smith said.”I want police officers that never give up on victims.”

Smith said his training Tuesday will help officers prepare for the struggle of the job.

“I don’t want them to struggle with post-traumatic stress. I want them to have post-traumatic growth,” Smith said. “You’ve got to have your sense of mission and you’ve got to believe what you did mattered.”

HRAC plans to protest the training all day at the Sheriff’s Training Center in Newman Lake, while tweeting and livestreaming for people to follow along, Peters said.

The group plans to host a mock funeral to draw attention “to the lives that have been lost to this type of warrior-mindset mentality,” Peters said.

They will then head downtown to the new police precinct to continue the protest against police brutality and warrior-style trainings in a more public space, Peters said.

Knezovich has said he feels activists often don’t bring solutions to the table, something HRAC took to heart, Peters said.

The group is advocating for a crisis intervention training solution featured in the documentary, Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops, which follows two police officers with the San Antonio Police Department in Texas as they respond to mental health calls.

The officers were often out of uniform and unarmed, working to defuse violent situations with people who are mentally ill and divert them to treatment rather than jail.

Both men featured in the film now offer training on the tactics used in the documentary, something HRAC wants to bring to Spokane area law enforcement. While the group has yet to secure a meeting with Knezovich, they have put out a community survey and hosted Zoom calls with Ernie Stevens to educate the Spokane community on the program.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office often invites instructors to Spokane as a way to offer expertise not available locally and to help avoid the cost of sending deputies to trainings elsewhere, Gregory said, in an interview on the killology training.

The sheriff’s office often gets a limited number of free seats or tuition discounts for hosting the training, but deputies are not required to attend. The sheriff’s office pays for officers’ tuition if funds are available and staffing levels allow, Gregory said.

The training is open to the public and set to run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fee to register is $195, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s website.

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